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What is General Education?

Dear Student:

Nearly all colleges and universities in the United States offer a core of courses designed to help students develop a collective understanding of the world and prepare for the changing conditions of personal, family, and career life. At Southeast Missouri State University, you will have these core learning experiences in the courses of the nationally recognized General Education program. After examining this handbook, you will see that this reputation is due to two emphases of the program: academic skills and curricular themes.

The General Education program is designed to help you develop academic skills by learning the ways that scholars in different academic disciplines seek answers to important questions about our lives. In the program, you will be exposed to the ways in which artists, scientists, poets, economists, and other scholars use critical and creative thinking to understand humans and their relationship with the universe around them. For example, to understand the relationship between humans and nature an artist may create a painting of humans in a serene forest setting; a scientist may test hypotheses about human interactions with the environment of that forest; a poet may weave words expressing a sense of wonder at the forest’s beauty; and an economist may seek to understand the optimal cost-to-benefit ratio of harvesting the trees in that forest. Each of these scholars uses different approaches to thinking about the interaction of humans and nature. The General Education lower division courses will provide you with academic skills that are essential tools in the search for answers to fundamental questions about humanity. The lower division courses, therefore, provide opportunities for you to learn how scholars acquire knowledge and form it into concepts that help us understand the world around us. This emphasis is evident in the lower division curriculum’s theme, "Acquisition of Knowledge: Gaining Perspectives on the Individual, Society and the Universe."

After completing the lower division courses, you will enroll in three interdisciplinary courses. These upper division General Education courses are focused on the theme, "Integration of Knowledge: Living in an Interdependent Universe." The interdisciplinary courses will help you see that the various ways scholars seek answers to questions are complementary and based on the same underlying academic skills. Your experiences in these courses should help you understand that integrating the different ways of applying these intellectual skills is a powerful and necessary way to gain a fuller understanding of the complex issues, problems, and joys of human life.

What are these important academic skills? You will find the nine General Education skills objectives and the program’s themes and structure described later in this handbook. Every General Education course uses academic subject matter to help you practice these key skills as you prepare for life after college. Please examine these skills objectives and themes carefully and then look through the descriptions of courses in the General Education program. The information you find on these pages will help you choose courses that interest you and that meet the requirements of various academic programs. By making good use of this handbook, you will gain a better sense of how the General Education program will help you succeed academically, personally, and professionally.

The staff of the General Education is committed to helping you be successful in the General Education program. As you participate in the program and prepare for your future, we encourage you to ask us for advice and help. We wish the best for you and will work with you to help you achieve your educational goals.


Frank Barrios
General Education

Wayne Bowen
Director of General Education


Academic Hall 132

General Education Program
One University Plaza, MS 3400
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701